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More Aboriginal kids stolen than ever

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by Louisa L.

Sorry Day, May 26 on Gadigal land in Redfern, begins.

Aunty Denny, a Luritja Yakuntjajara woman, stolen as a baby and never reunited with her mother, stands with 100 others outside the Family and Community Services (FACS) headquarters.

Uncle Ray Jackson understands. At just two he was taken from his Aboriginal mother because his white father died on the Kokoda Track. “This pain is a constant. It eats at you every day. Who? When? Where? Why? For me those questions are unanswerable.”

But a new generation will again face those questions. As Greens MP David Shoebridge says, “We need to put some meat on the bones of the word 'sorry'. We are removing Aboriginal kids at a rate higher than in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, at the height of the assimilation era.” 
Says Uncle Ray Jackson fiercely, “Some of what's happening now beggars belief. A FACS worker wanted to take a boy because he didn't have any shoes. Give him some shoes! Don't take him from his family!” 

Sorry means you won't keep doing it
Aboriginal people are looking for solutions to intergenerational trauma that began with the British invasion, whilst too often the authorities punish poverty instead. 

Former FACS caseworker Debra Swan told the protest, “I couldn't bring myself to go to work any more with the way this department is mistreating Aboriginal people.” 

According to an article by John Pilger, “In 2012, the co-ordinator-general of remote services for the Northern Territory, Olga Havnen, was sacked when she revealed that almost $80 million was spent on the surveillance and removal of Aboriginal children compared with only $500,000 on supporting the same impoverished families.”

And, despite widespread opposition from Aboriginal communities, service providers and legal networks, amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act of 1998 passed by the NSW Parliament in April, will fast track adoption, privatise ‘guardianship’ of children and make reunification of families close to impossible.

They account to us!
 According to Gunnedah Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR), “We have virtually no rights within the current system. The rules of evidence do not apply in the Children's Court. Welfare workers can file statements full of anonymous stories and have magistrates approve removal without any chance for parents to be heard. Many parents are not represented in court and those who are often have to wait months to put their case forward.”

 Aunty Hazel from GMAR told ABC's Kelly Fuller, “They told me I had to be a qualified carer . Why am I not qualified under kinship? I've been a mother all my adult life. I'm a non-drinker. I don't take drugs. How am I not suitable?”

This undermines any notion of pre-existing Aboriginal knowledge, traditions or skills. Richard Trudgen's, Why Warriors Lie Down and Die powerfully documents how the reverse is essential for Aboriginal people to overcome the huge tragedies engulfing their communities.

A GMAR statement reads, “If there is a crisis situation and children are unable to remain in a household, options for care should be negotiated with the family group and the broader Aboriginal community, not be enforced through non-indigenous foster care. The ultimate goal must be self-determination for our people in the care and protection of our children.”

To ensure this, GMAR has proposed creation of an Aboriginal Community Liaison Committee (ACLC). Under grassroots community pressure and negative publicity, FACS agreed to respond by mid-June and meet the GMAR team in Tamworth.  

Aunty Hazel says, “They are failing our children. They rip our babies out of our arms. Who protects our babies? They have failed us in every way imaginable. Aboriginal people will make them accountable! They account to us!” 



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